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phx: what local place do you think is underrated?


this is on the flip side of my other topic ;) what local spot is a fave that you think for some reason is totally underrated/over looked in the local food scene?

here's mine -

lisa g's wine bar - great food, great prices, good wines by the glass, cute location, great service, and lisa is ALWAYS there - i love it when the owner is there making sure everything is all good. and it is, too!!

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  1. Maybe Lola or Such is Life. I don't know that I've really noticed people bagging on either of them, but they don't seem to get much play on the board. I've enjoyed myself greatly at both places. Lola, though not fancy or mind-blowing, is a solid value, and the food I've had at Such is Life stands head and shoulders above that I've had at Barrio.

    Funny you should mention lisa g's. I ate there for the first time just about a week ago. My reaction to the food was mixed. Being the porcophile that I am, I liked the prosciutto bruschetta quite a bit. The steak salad was decent, but could have been improved easily. The empanadas? Well, they weren't really empanadas as I know them. But labeling issues aside, they just didn't float my boat. I almost talked myself out of ordering them because I kept thinking that the chef needed to swap the cheeses in the two varieties. And when the empandas arrived, I was disappointed at the low filling:pastry ratio.

    I had no complaints about the service. We (and the nearly empty dining room) weren't exactly placing a huge demand on our friendly waitress's energy or skill.

    My impression after my initial visit was that lisa g's would probably not be a place where I would try to make a meal out of their offerings, but I might stop in the for a glass of wine and a snack or a dessert, which is sometimes all I'm looking for.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hohokam

      Great choices. In a way, I'm thankful that these places, especially Lola, are off radar. It would be shame to have to put up with two-hour waits for a round of tapas.

    2. Don and Charlie's. It's not a "foodie" destination, but it has been serving quality food with great atmosphere and fantastic servers for well over 20 years. Great bbq ribs, excellent steaks (order it with the "char crust"), unique creamed spinach as a side, and a complimentary chopped liver platter than beats even my Jewish grandmother's!

      Other than the usual fast food haunts that you frequent over the years out of convenience, I've probably eaten at Don and Charlie's more than any other restaurant and I've never had a meal that was anything less than great. Rarely do I see it mentioned here, unless I'm mentioning it!

      1. One of my faves is Marcellino, and it doesn't get a lot of board talk. Everything from the food and wine, to the warm service Sima provides, is top notch.

        4 Replies
        1. re: mamamia

          Nice looking menu there. I'm rarely on that stretch of Northern, but I did notice it last time I was up that way. I recall trying to remember why the name sounded familiar--maybe it was one of your posts? ;-)

          1. re: mamamia

            Agree. Marcellino is wonderful. Now that I've experienced Aiello's, I'm happy to have two Italian gems in NCP. Each has its niche, and I believe the two will complement each other more than compete with each other.

            1. re: mamamia

              Good call - great restaurant. We dine there with some regularity, but not as much, as I'd like. I love to turn Chef Marcellino loose with his "hidden reserve" wine list, which is not a list at all, just what he has secreted away. Always worth it, and his descriptions and translations are great.

              I also recall a similar thread, but maybe with a tad more focus, from a year, or so ago: "Cowboy Ciao, why does no one mention it?" Since Peter has been getting a lot of press recently, I do not know that this is true any longer, but I still sing its praises.


              1. re: mamamia

                Forgot to add the link, for those who might like to locate it.


                Marcellino Ristorante
                7114 E. Stetson Dr. 85251, Old Town Scottsdale, AZ 85251

              2. Just down the street from Lola is Padre's, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it restaurant that is a favorite of mine. The owner is friendly and is often behind the bar or walking around, which I agree makes for great service. They do seafood really well, but the other night I had a chance to try the Arrachera Steak, which perhaps the best thing I've had there. Also, their blueberry mojito is so good I actually called the restaurant while I was at the grocery store so I could make my own at home!

                3 Replies
                1. re: HerculesRockefeller

                  say no more.. i agree! i'm addicted to both their pomegranate margarita and their scallops appetizer. i don't even like spicy food that much, but they do something with the risotto so it PERFECTLY balances the spice of the sauce, which is a roasted red pepper cream or something. just spectacular.

                  1. re: HerculesRockefeller

                    Do you have a link or address for Padre's? I've been hankering after some arrachera.

                    1. re: nyomi

                      they have red sign at ground level. look for it around 12th-ish and Camelback (north side). see place link below...

                      Padre's Latin Grill
                      1044 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ

                  2. The various breakfast places with "egg" in their names: US Egg, Eggery, Good Egg, etc. Most provide a more varied and appealing menu than the morning favorites on this board, but they don't get much respect here.

                    Christopher's Fermier Brasserie (and its successor soon to open at the west end of Biltmore Fashion Park). Back when Stephen Lemons had the restaurant beat at the New Times, he tried to slaughter this sacred cow, but he only made me appreciate it more.

                    In Season Deli -- Great lunch spot in Downtown Tempe for 25 years. Healthful choices at reasonable prices.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: silverbear

                      Wow. In Season Deli. I haven't been there in a good long while. When I was a student and (gasp) a vegetarian, I really appreciated their wallet-friendly menu. Just thinking of sitting in the dappled light of the courtyard with one of their tamales and a cup of lemonade takes me back to my salad days.

                      Hmm...maybe I can invent a reason to be in Tempe at lunchtime after I get back to town.

                      1. re: hohokam

                        Just had lunch there today. In Season was closed for a while over the summer due to an injury on the part of one of the staff (maybe the owner?). It has since come back with newly expanded hours, including Saturdays. The tamales, soups, salads, and the lemonade are as good as they were when I first tried them almost 20 years ago.

                        In Season Deli
                        414 S Mill Ave Ste 111, Tempe, AZ 85281

                      2. re: silverbear

                        Oh, I must have leftovers at Christopher's before it closes!

                        Love In Season Deli too.

                        1. re: AguasFrescas

                          are they still doing leftovers? I was aware in the new location they are not.

                      3. Voltaire - People overlook it because it is in a non-descript building on MacDonald Drive in Scottsdale and caters mostly to our senior citizens, but the food is outstanding, the service professional and completely affordable for a delightful classic French meal.

                        Tandoori Times - I think it is the best Indian restaurant in Phoenix metro. More of an Indian bistro than a traditional Indian restaurant, but the mixed naan basket is superb.

                        Cove Trattoria - A gem of a restaurant in the Seville Center at Scottsdale Road and Indian Bend. Great pizza and good service. But it never seems to get much play.

                        Tandoori Times Indian Bistro
                        8140 N Hayden Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85258

                        Cove Trattoria
                        7001 N Scottsdale Rd # 128, Scottsdale, AZ

                        8340 E McDonald Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Seth Chadwick

                          Cove is a place we enjoy as well, but always forget it's there. Some of their pasta dishes are amazing.

                          1. re: Seth Chadwick

                            Dang, you have shamed me, Seth. I had promised to try Voltaire, soon after your glowing review. I will make amends and get myself over there, pronto.


                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Just as an FYI, Hunt, you will be disappointed with the wine list. It isn't comprehensive by any means, but it did have a few things that interested us.

                              As for the food, think of 1950s classic French fare and you will get the picture.

                              1. re: Seth Chadwick

                                All I require of a wine list is to be servicable with the menu, and fairly priced. I do not need selection, upon selection, so long as someone has sampled the wines, and the fare from the kitchen. Yes, it's great fun to plow through a 300 pg. wine list, and find something rare and wonderful, but often, I'd rather just dine and have a good wine to accompany my meal.

                                Now, that said, I hate wine lists that feature "the usual suspects," even when none goes with any dish on the menu. One wonderful Asian seafood restaurant in Denver, had maybe three whites (mostly for N. IT food), and then 3 pages of big Cabs. In all of my years there, they never had anything to match the Cabs on their menu. Some nights, we'd stop by, just to drink a Silver Oak Napa, and not bother to order, though their food was very good.

                                Give me a well-conceived, but short wine list, and I'm OK.

                                Thanks for the H/U,

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  Cheers on the Silver Oak Napa. A client of ours bought a bottle at dinner last month when I was in Providence. Easily the best wine I had never tasted. I've been craving it ever since.

                            2. re: Seth Chadwick

                              Seth, I think you give praise to Voltaire at every possible juncture. :) I can't wait to try it sometime.

                              Has everyone else who's been there been as impressed?

                              1. re: nyomi

                                me..its adorable in its old world charms. and the food is just about as perfect of a julia child spot on french standard cooking as you could get.

                                i loved it. we were the younges peeps in the room by about 30 years. i'd go again in a minute :)

                                1. re: winedubar

                                  ah, thanks, another recommendation :)

                                  it sounds as though I definitely need to get myself there. Funny enough, I live and work less than 4 miles from there...

                              2. re: Seth Chadwick

                                Good for you, Seth! Voltaire's is both understated and underrated. It's one of the few places I can think of where it's quiet enough to hear your table companions. And better still, the tables are spaced far enough apart so that you don't have to listen to other people's chatter. The wait staff are unfailingly polite and helpful. And the food - well, it's uniformly excellent, the portions generous.

                                I do take exception to characterizing the building as "non-descript". Although a stand-alone building for a restaurant usually signals "corporate feeding trough", this building is not new (a veritable no-no in the valley) but to those of us who have migrated here from older areas in the US, it's comfortably aged. Perhaps a pre-WWII bungalow?

                                If architecture counts, what do you think of the Coronado Cafe in Phoenix?

                              3. One of our favorites is Shish Kebab House in Glendale. We absolutely LOVE their hummus. So much so that it's basically the only place we ever get hummus. Service can occasionally be hit or miss, but the food has never disappointed.

                                Shish Kebab House
                                5023 W Olive Ave, Glendale, AZ 85302

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Firenza00

                                  Shish Kebab House is no longer. It's been taken over by a bbq joint. We miss it too.

                                  Another place we love and I'm not sure it's still in business is the Q - like 43rd and Olive I think. We used to go to the fish frys on Friday. Very delicious.

                                  1. re: JerryMe

                                    SKH is supposed to be moving to new quarters just across the street. We tried to go a few weeks ago and were told they were still finishing construction.

                                    1. re: silverbear

                                      We were told the same thing when I called SKH. We drove by a few weeks ago and there was a sign on the window looking for waitstaff.

                                      1. re: Firenza00

                                        Is the SKH back on?? That was one of our favorites also. Does anyone know?

                                        1. re: JerryMe

                                          From Firenza's blog: "The new address is 5158 W. Olive Ave, Glendale, AZ 623-937-8757".

                                          I ate there, shortly after that blog post, last Winter.

                                2. This tough, since this site revolves around uncovering these gems -- not too many remain underrated, at least here. To name a few ...
                                  Sonora Brewhouse ... not enough love. Good brews and good pub fare.
                                  Phoenix City Grille -- just a nice, nice place to eat -- a fine neighborhood restaurant.
                                  Pizza Heaven -- solid, inexpensive food in a clean, friendly place.
                                  A Slice of Sicily -- I always thought it was underrated until my last pie from there, which was average.
                                  That's Italiano -- better food than some of its competition.
                                  Blue Fin -- superb, inexpensive rice bowls.
                                  Mu Shu Asian Grill -- great assemble-yourself fresh rice bowls, although not that cheap. The mu shu is decent, too.
                                  Original Hamburger Works -- excellent value, and more than just beef burgers.
                                  Pino's and Calabria Grocery -- excellent Italian sandwiches. DeFalco's, too.
                                  Uncle Sam's (32nd) -- good food, neighborhood vibe, great value.
                                  La Tolteca -- autentico.
                                  China Chili -- very good food and servce.
                                  Alexi's Grill -- where's the love?
                                  Kokopelli Grill (20th) -- best of the assembly-line burrito emporia.
                                  Nello's -- never hear about them anymore.
                                  Kampai and Sushi Ko -- two underrated sushi restaurants, especially Kampai. Dozo, even more so!
                                  Med Fresh Grill -- delicious! Get there before it gets too crowded. Also Dragonfly and Noodles Ranch, Soma Cafe and Express, Cafe Lalibela, Pasand, Golden Wok, ... Restaurant Mexico.

                                  High end? At this stage, I believe that Christopher's, Vincent, Ruth's Chris and La Hacienda are somewhat overlooked and underrated.

                                  1. Along with other responses, some of which I have responded to, I'd add Basis New American Restaurant, up above Sunnyslope. I find that I mention it, with some regularity, when folk are up in that neighborhood, but I do not know if any others have ever dined there.


                                    Basis New American Restaurant
                                    410 E Thunderbird Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85022

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Funny, Basis just got a brief mention on a local news website. Two mentions in one week-- it must be fate, and I guess I'm supposed to try it.

                                      1. re: HerculesRockefeller

                                        And, I just saw a new thread with "Basis" in the name. Hope they have not gone downhill, as I usually give them a big nod, for their food and fun wines. It's also nice, that they are just over the mountain from us, so they are a "neighborhood" spot. I'm off to read the article now.


                                    2. Yuphas - Thai food in Tempe at Hardy and Elliot. We love this place and have never once been disappointed by anything we've ordered...and owner, Yupha, is so gracious. .

                                      1. With the new heavyweights bakeries--MJ and Simply Bread--I think the Arizona Bread Company has been pushed off to the side but I still think their bread ranks up there. Depending on the type, I actually prefer it to Simply Bread.

                                        The other one that comes to mind is Chompie's. Certainly not a foodie destanation but their belly lox is great as is their pastrami. And hands down the best bagels in the city.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: avandelay

                                          I totally agree. If I'm having a bad day, their matzo ball soup will solve everything. When I graduated from ASU I decided to throw myself a graduation party on my meager college student budget, and minus what went to buying beer, the rest went to Chompie's for their great catering!

                                        2. Cafe Zuzu at Hotel Valley Ho. Since Trader Vic's sits right out on the corner, I'm not sure how many locals actually venture into the hotel for Cafe Zuzu's reinvention of 1950s comfort food classics. Chef Wiley left elements (amazing, but probably not underrated) in great hands and I don't think he's received as much fanfare for Zuzu. I actually enjoy sitting in the bar area (same menu is available) and watching the crowd. It is a great mix of the new Scottsdale scene and the old timers that remember the Valley Ho from back when. The mac & cheese and short ribs are out of this world.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Beaver Street

                                            Fair disclosure: I work at the hotel, but not for Zuzu.

                                            Zuzu is one of my favorite places for breakfast. The whole package is just spot-on, delicious food with just enough of a twist to make it interesting, a charming atmosphere, and Sharon is one of the best breakfast waitresses I've met anywhere.

                                          2. San Carlos Bay - Best Authentic Mexican Seafood

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: ValleyFever

                                              Great call on San Carlos Bay! -- Truly overlooked and underrated, been around for some time now. I've also had good meals at Serrano's Fish Market at 32nd and Shea.

                                            2. Sushi Ken in Ahwatukee... we love the food and it's an amazing value. It's a recent discovery for us, but in a weird twist, Sushi Ten in Tucson was the first place my boyfriend ever had sushi.

                                              Orange Table - for the hashes, the coffee soda, and the fact that you can bring your dog to hang out with on the patio. This is one of the only places in the whole Phoenix area that I can think of that is dog-friendly and has great food.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: sistinas

                                                I'm not surprised you like Sushi Ken, as the owners of it sold Sushi Ten to open Sushi Ken up here.

                                                The place I've been going gaga for with sushi lately is Sushi Eye In Motion over in downtown Chandler. I tried the unagi nigiri today and it was just plain perfect. Heck, even the unassuming California roll that we picked up as it scooted by on the conveyor belt was one of the best I've had.

                                                1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                                  Thanks for mentioning this. We've been wondering how this is but haven't gotten over there yet. I've had favorable experiences with the sushi conveyor belt in Tokyo and Seattle so wanted to give it a go.

                                                  Is it the same folks as Sushi Eye up on Elliot? How do the prices compare?

                                                  1. re: ziggylu

                                                    It is the same owners. I just looked over the menu for the original location, and prices seem comparable, maybe just a wee bit less at In Motion.

                                              2. I rarely see Pie Zano's Kitchen mentioned, but I have gone many times for lunch because I work in the area and think it's a good neighborhood joint. I really like the Pie-Talian sandwich, what I usually get, but their pizzas and salads are pretty good; the prices are reasonable too.

                                                Pie Zanos Kitchen
                                                4743 N 20th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: azhotdish

                                                  Y'know, it's in my hood, I park in the lot several times a week, but it just does not work for me, and I'm single ... the pies are disappointing -- pizza is very important to me, too. Perhaps I should try the sandwiches ... maybe the space is doomed. I used to go there when Chris Bianco was crafting pies in exactly the same space.

                                                  1. re: misohungrychewlow

                                                    Give the sandwiches a shot. FWIW, I haven't been back in several months so I hope it isn't going downhill. It's in a very odd location, and I'm actually surprised they've made it as long as they have.

                                                    1. re: misohungrychewlow

                                                      Ah, the original Pizzeria Bianco! Nobody else remembers it. I guess half the valley's population wasn't even around back then.
                                                      My ex-bf and I used to go back in '96/'97.

                                                      1. re: mamamia

                                                        I remember it fondly. Back in the T&C days, you could enjoy PB without growing old waiting for a table. Interestingly, I believe Rancho Pinot also occupied that spot before moving to Scottsdale.

                                                        1. re: silverbear

                                                          Boy, so much T&C history I had no clue about. I've seen Pie Zanos when we go to Baby K's ,but have never gone in. The sandwiches sound good, though. Might have to give it a try.

                                                        2. re: mamamia

                                                          I do! New Times had just written it up. The Rosa remains my favorite pizza.

                                                          1. re: mamamia

                                                            My wife and I first tasted Chris' pizzas when he had the corner pizza space at Euro Market, what is now A.J's at Central and Camelback. It was Chris that had the wood burning oven built. He moved from there Euro Market to TC.

                                                            1. re: 1bigdawg

                                                              Wow...Euro Market. What a trip down memory lane. For those of you who are relatively new to Phoenix, this was the precursor to the whole AJ's concept. I remember being a teenager with a new drivers license, and Euro Market was one of my favorite places to visit on my own.

                                                              1. re: 1bigdawg

                                                                That store still makes pretty good pizzas! But didn't Bianco do a stint with the Rancho Pinot couple at T&C before they vacated the space he took over there?

                                                        3. The Salt Cellar on Hayden doesn't get a lot of mention but has some of the consistently best seafood in town. Every time we go there I am pleasantly surprised by the variety and the level of service. Wine list could use a little work, but other than that it's great.

                                                          Also Italian Grotto on Scottsdale. I mention that once in a while though, but great old school Italian in downtown Scottsdale.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: kmarg

                                                            I've heard great things about SC, but even in the heart of the Summer, with a full week's notice, we have yet to get in. Last call was about 10 days out, in a really hot spell in July. I inquired about a table for two (10 days later), on a Saturday evening, offering any time. The hostess, said, "we're full," and hung up. OK, maybe some day we'll try again, but with 4-5 attempts, we're not doing well. They must be doing something right, that they are full more than a week out, all weekends of the year.


                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                              We eat at the bar alot to avoid tabe waits, but we also have a good friend of the family owners in our usual circle. that shortens the wait a little, since the owners are north chicago Italian and will have you whacked if you argue with their seating policy. :)

                                                          2. Carlsbad Tavern. So good on so many different levels and for a wide variety of meals - lunch, dinner, late night, apps, specials, etc.

                                                            1. headed to PHX and Sedona tomorrow for 4 days and you all have given me some great ideas..

                                                              1. I will second Pittsburgh Willy's! Not only do they have great and inexpensive dogs, but on Wednesdays (and I hear some weekends) they have pierogi night. These are amazing, homemade potato and cheese pierogi, smothered in butter and onions, and they just melt in your mouth! The pasta is slightly chewy, and they are perfectly stuffed with filling.

                                                                An order of 6 with a hunk of kielbasa and a soda will only set you back $6.50, and just the pierogi is an even more ridiculous $5.00. You can also get the pierogi to go for 75 cents a piece. I had them for dinner tonight, and I am full and very happy!

                                                                Pittsburghwilly's gourmet hot dogs
                                                                1509 N Arizona Ave, Chandler, AZ 85225